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This post is a bit long in coming, but check out the pics of the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Art Festival below. For those of us who were there, it’s a nice reminder of how quickly the event has grown. For those of you who weren’t…well, don’t miss it in 2012! Sarasota has a long history as a haven for artists, and the Chalk Festival is part of downtown Sarasota’s burgeoning street art scene (more on that in upcoming posts). More photos can be found here. The festival home page is chalkfestival.com

2012 Sarasota Chalk Festival Announces Circus City Theme!!

The 2012 Sarasota Chalk Festival theme will bring us back to the 1920′s when the serene seaside shores of Sarasota became Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey’s Circus winter home and became known as “Circus City, USA”.

A time when residents would glow with anticipation as the trains rolled into town carrying circus families from around the world along with their elaborate costumes, massive tents and exotic animals to practice their fearless acts.

The Sarasota Chalk Festival hosted the most important contemporary street painting venue in the world last year (2011 Pavement Art Through the Ages) with over 250 of the most renowned artists participating for the first time in one location and 200,000 visitors attending. Local artists were joined by artists from all over America as well as international artists from Australia, Italy, Canada, Spain, Netherlands, Mexico, Japan, Peru, France, Brazil and Germany. (more info at the official website)

Juandres Vera, of Mexico, finishes his submission for the 3D Pavement Art category at the 2011 Sarasota international Chalk Festival.

A chalk mosaic pays homage to modern collages made from hundreds of digital photos. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

One artist blends past and future with an homage to apples and Apple products. Sarasota, Fla. officials estimate over 100,000 visitors attended the free festival. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

Wide-pan view of the 2011 Sarasota Chalk Festival. The festival’s end on Nov. 7 saw a high-pressure street washer wipe all the art away, leaving only photos through which to remember the gallery. (Apt. 46/Flickr)

This LEGO terracotta army was inspired by the giant LEGO man found on a Sarasota beach, as well as the Terracotta warriors of ancient China. (Zinnia Jones/Flickr)

The finished LEGO terracota army by Planet Streetpainting of the Netehrlands. (Zinnia Jones/Flickr)

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Freiburg Photowalk

Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany. The "old town" is actually a carefully considered reconstruction, as the city was almost totally destroyed during WWII.

{click image for photo source}

It’s the new year, and not just any new year. 2012. The end of the world. Or just a year of notable changes, depending on how you translate ancient Mayan. In any case, the turning over of the calendar offers a chance to wipe the slate clean; to self-reflect, to identify the wrong turns we took, and to chart a new course. So, we at Laurel Park wondered what sort of resolutions cities might make if they were inclined to do such things. If Sarasotans were to come together and speak with a collective voice for the common good, for the present and future of our entire city, what might we resolve to do?

Well, the beginning of an answer might be found in, of all places, Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany.

Renowned for decades as one of Europe’s greenest cities, Freiburg has an important story to tell about post-war reconstruction, challenging conventions, innovating new directions in transport and energy, and maintaining its momentum to become an extremely liveable environment that combines tradition and modernity.

Freiburg was awarded the title of European City of the year 2010 at The Academy of Urbanism’s awards ceremony in London in November 2009. This prestigious award was voted by the academicians following a short-listing process, detailed study visit and a documented assessment report. In celebration of this recognition, the City of Freiburg hosted a study tour and discourse with the academy, producing a charter that advocates good practice in sustainable urbanism.

Known as the Freiburg Charter, the document details twelve guiding principles, four each in three categories: Spatial, Content, and Process. Taken as a whole, the principles suggest a city that continuously evaluates itself and adjusts its course to make sure as many people as possible can thrive without jeopardizing the quality of life of future generations. This, of course, is the very essence of sustainability. What makes Freiburg different than many other so-called “green cities” is that Freiburg puts its principles into action and has been doing so since it was leveled by bombs during World War II.

We’ll get more into all of this in follow-up posts, and we’ll also look at our fair Sarasota and ask how lessons learned in Freiburg could be applicable here at home, why such a charter is needed, and how it might help make Sarasota an even better place to live and vacation. For now, we invite you to think about the 12 principles, listed below, and to read through the whole document at your leisure here (it’s barely 30 pages with a lot of pictures).

The 12 Guiding Principles

SPATIAL

1) Diversity, Safety, and Tolerance

2) City of Neighborhoods

3) City of Short Distances

4) Public Transport & Density

CONTENT

5) Education, Science, and Culture

6) Industry & Jobs

7) Nature & Environment

8) Design Quality

PROCESS

9) Long-Term Vision

10) Communication & Participation

11) Reliability, Obligation, and Fairness

12) Cooperation & Partnership

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Success is a funny thing, and more difficult to measure than one might immediately think. If a basketball player scores 30 points per game but destroys his team’s chemistry with a poor attitude, is he really successful? Is a presidential campaign successful if half the country doesn’t support the candidate? And is city planning only successful when it happens quickly and in lockstep with the planner’s vision?

A recent article from americancity.org looked at the issue of public participation in city planning, something that Sarasota has dealt with plenty over the past decade or so as New Urbanism has made its present felt. Charrettes—one or even multiple-day information sessions and planning workshops—are now standard operating procedure when new projects begin to develop. Surely, citizens are involved to a higher degree than ever before. But is the value of their contributions being maximized? And has increased involvement made the planning process better or worse?

Over the past two years, a growing number of voices have criticized the role of public participation in urban planning. These voices include Andrés Duany, the architect and New Urbanist, who has decried America’s “absolute orgy of public process.1  They also include Tom Campanella, who argues in essays in Planning magazine and the journal Places that, “it’s a fool’s errand to rely upon citizens to guide the planning process.”2, 3  A position justified, Campanella claims, because, “most folks lack the knowledge to make intelligent decisions about the future of our cities.” Criticism of participation is not new, but the increasingly strident tone of anti-participation sentiment should worry citizens and policy makers alike. In fact, there are good reasons to encourage participation in public processes, perhaps now more than ever.

Recent criticism of participation comes at a time when comparisons between American urban development and other models are particularly stark. This is especially true when looking at the speed and scale of new construction. Highlighting the contrast between American and Chinese cities, Thomas Friedman noted in a 2010 New York Times article that, “the comparisons start from the moment one departs Beijing’s South Station, a giant space-age building”.4  In his article, he notes: “With enough cheap currency, labor and capital – and authoritarianism – you can build anything in nine months.” Friedman’s argument is that the status quo approach to development in America isn’t working, a sentiment shared by Duany and Campanella, as well as a large number of other commentators. As Campanella stated in a talk at Harvard: “Just as China could use more of the American gavel of justice and democratic process, we could certainly use a bit more of that very effective Chinese sledgehammer.”

Contemporary concerns that public participation slows development bear similarity to arguments voiced in the 1970s, during the Cold War. Then, the rival economic superpower was not China, but the Soviet Union. As Joseph Stiglitz points out: “In the years immediately following World War II, there was a belief…in a tradeoff between democracy and growth.  The Soviet Union, it was argued, had grown faster than the countries of the West, but in order to do so had jettisoned basic democratic rights.”5  Stiglitz continues by arguing that such a tradeoff, between participation and growth, does not exist and that, in contrast, participation is a key element of sustainable economic development. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s easy to see that American competitiveness has been more sustainable than the Soviet Union’s over the long-term, in part due to the country’s robust democratic norms. Keeping this history in mind, is it any more prudent in the current recession to think that rolling back participation will be a boon for American cities over the long term?

Keep reading at http://americancity.org/buzz/entry/3187/

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The holidays they are approachin’, so we at Laurel Park Management thought we’d pass along info on this weekend’s appropriately themed events and to-do options in case the spirit moves you. Enjoy!

Atomic Holiday Bazaar: December 10-11

Atomic Holiday Bazaar, Sarasota’s original annual Indie Craft Show returns for its 6th year. Shop local with unusual creators of hand made arts and crafts from Florida, the U.S. and as far as Central America! This is a craft show that won’t make you yawn or cringe!

click for more info

Gingerbread Festival: through December 11

Community Youth Development presents the Gingerbread Festival at Westfield Sarasota mall (Macy’s wing), where more than 125 houses created by youth groups, businesses and community organizations will be featured. This year there will also be gingerbread versions of iconic Sarasota landmarks as well as a Iron Chef-style gingerbread house decorating contest performed by professional and youth chefs.

click for more info

3rd Annual SRQ Santa Paws: December 10, 10am-1pm, Five Points Park

Bring your friends, family and four-legged friends to this must-see holiday pet extravaganza. Santa Paws will be available for kitty and canine consultation on Dec. 10 from 10 to 1 at Five Points Park and Santa’s little helpers will be capturing photos of the cutest pets to feature in SRQ: The Best Overall Magazine on Florida’s West Coast.

click for more info

Holiday Splendor at the Payne Mansion, Selby Gardens: through January 2

Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Presents “Holiday Splendor at the Payne Mansion.” The Florida West Coast Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) will expand the scope of its popular Holiday Showhouse in the Mansion for 2011, decking the entire first floor with stunning holiday décor. Talented designers will transform Selby Gardens’ Museum of Botany & the Arts into a glittering Holiday Showhouse, even creating a kitchen on the sun porch.

click for more info

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As the quest for more viable renewable and alternative energy sources continues, some of the options suggested seem brilliant while others remain firmly in the world of the bizarre. Take, for instance, a biofuel mentioned in a recent article on portstrategy.com:

According to a recent report by the American Chemical Society, alligator fat could be the best option for fuelling cars; the oil found in the alligator’s meat and skin is apparently more practical than soya, the usual biofuel source, and the society says that the meat industry sends 15m pounds (lbs) of alligator fat a year to landfill.

Really? Gator gas? Gotta wonder whether the folks at the American Chemical Society are avid golfers who lost one too many balls to alligator-defended water hazards. Then again, it’s hard to justify wasting 15 million pounds of alligator fat annually. Might as well put it to use. As strange as gator fuel sounds, it is an interesting possibility, one that could lead to more locally sourced biofuels.

Another, more technologically oriented, potential energy source is the humble speed bump. A Maryland-based company has developed a speed bump that harnesses the kinetic energy of cars as they pass over it and  then converts that energy into electricity.

The company “is targeting installations in parking lots, border crossings, exit ramps, neighborhoods with traffic calming zones, rest areas, toll booths, and travel plazas. Electricity would power roadway signs, street and building lights, storage systems for back-up and emergency power.”

Traffic calming can make neighborhoods safer, more enjoyable, more humane places to live, so if it can also increase an area’s social, economic, and environmental sustainability who could complain? Downtown Sarasota has dozens if not hundreds of places appropriate for such a speed bump.

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The Circle in Uptown Normal, Illinois {pic by Hoerr Shaudt landscape architects}

…and Sarasota’s nowhere on the list! What about Island Park? No Arlington Park? Payne Park got snubbed? Well, it should probably be noted that this ranking was assembled by Planetizen and Project for Public Spaces largely through crowdsourcing, meaning that the results are as much a measure of how vocal a handful of passionate, supportive communities are. Not that there aren’t some great public spaces on the list, starting with the surprise top spot: a traffic circle in Normal, Illinois. Traffic circles, even if they successfully calm and smooth the flow of traffic, are usually dead space. But Normal took on the challenge of bringing dead space to life, and they are justifiably proud of the results.

The Circle is a multi-functional public space located in a roundabout that provides community green space, re-circulates storm water into a public fountain and improves traffic circulation. Designed by Hoerr Schaudt landscape architects, the circle creates an energy that draws people together. Located next to the Children’s Discovery Museum, bustling Amtrak station and planned multi-modal transportation center and within walking distance of Illinois State University, the circle creates a micro-community of travelers, patrons, students, professors, families and children as they gather and congregate on their daily journeys.

During the day, the circle is vibrant and alive with children playing in the grassy areas, visitors coming for a place to sit and enjoy an ice cream or friendly picnic back dropped by the charming tree lined streets home to local businesses and shops. It is also the location of many community events, including the annual Sugar Creek Arts and Sweet Corn Blues Festivals, and a farmers market.”

Sarasota has more than its fair share of public spaces, mostly in the form of parks. The three mentioned at the top of this post are standouts, but so are Pioneer Park, Whitaker Gateway, the little pocket park where Mietaw Drive joins Osprey at Hyde Park, and our very own beloved Laurel Park. Streets are also public spaces, and Sarasota has some gems here as well, among them Main Street, Lemon, Cherry Lane, and Hawkins Court. There are also the multi-use recreational paths, or MURPs: one at Island Park and another east of the Trail between Siesta Drive and Webber.

What is your favorite public space in Sarasota? Which local public space needs the most improvement? Which is most ripe for an innovative makeover?

http://www.planetizen.com/toppublicspaces

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The morning sun wakes me. It is warm but no longer carries the burn of summer; the orange light is pleasant, inviting. I wake gradually, as does the dog. The cat is stretched out on the wood floor in a bath of warm light. He half opens a single eye to watch me walk across the apartment and out to the porch, the dog following, but he soon grows bored and returns to his sleep.

I brew a pot of coffee and sit on the front stoop, the front door left open. The dog noses through the garden and along the sidewalk and I find the morning news on the radio. It is still early, the slightest chill in the air, and the sun on my face is lovely. I lie back on the wide top step of the front stoop and soon the dog and the cat both join me. My wife is awake now. She pours herself coffee and watches us. She smiles and begins her own morning ritual, watering the plants, reading over a piece she wrote the day before. The dog watches, sees when she has finished, and licks my face.

We walk through Laurel Park. Down Hawkins Court, slowly to enjoy the wonderfully car-free brick lane. We see the brick paving revealed on Madison where the blacktop has worn away and talk of how wonderful it would be if all of Laurel Park was again paved in brick. I would get rid of the sidewalks and invite everyone to enjoy the street. There is a stretch on Oak where several houses, instead of being set back, are built to the sidewalk edge. The effect is friendly, cozy. I find myself walking there intuitively, whether it is the direct way or not.

On Main Street we stop at C’est la Vie for croissants and a second cup of coffee. We both studied French in high school, and even if I can’t find the courage to speak it I enjoy its music as the waiters and waitresses banter, sometimes with francophone patrons. Several people, tourists and residents, stop us to say hello to the dog as we walk down Main Street toward Island Park and the bayfront. She ignores them good-naturedly. Sometimes she looks up at us and smiles, in her way.

Passing Media on Main we reminisce about Sarasota News & Books, much as the old-timers did about Charlie’s. We speak of the characters we’ve known there. Of the memories that have yet to fade.

The dog knows we are nearing Island Park. She loves it there, as do we. Other dogs greet her and us, other dog owners do as well. She and I trace the seawall and look to the water for passing fish. On the west side of the park we wade into the shallows and the dog barks at seabirds, bites gently at seaweed on the rocks. We can see Bird Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key. Longboat Key to the north. Cars and bicyclists and pedestrians are crossing the bridge to St. Armand’s Circle.

As we near O’Leary’s we find an empty bench and eat our pastries. We sip our coffee. We watch people and smile when they look our way. We again raise our faces to the sun. The dog busies herself at the water’s edge and we listen with our eyes closed to her snuffling and the lapping of tiny waves. It is a beautiful day.

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